Your theory of language evolution depends on your theory of language

Abstract

language to explain, and I want to show how this depends on what you think language is. So, what is language? Everybody recognizes that language is partly culturally dependent: there is a huge variety of disparate languages in the world, passed down through cultural transmission. If that’s all there is to language, a theory of the evolution of language has nothing at all to explain. We need only explain the cultural evolution of languages: English, Dutch, Mandarin, Hausa, etc. are products of cultural history. However, most readers of the present volume probably subscribe to the contemporary scientific view of language, which goes beneath the cultural differences among languages. It focuses on individual language users and asks.

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Ray Jackendoff
Tufts University

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